For four years, Joshua Spalding, age 11, has been a poster child for American Red Cross Blood Services. He stimulates blood donor recruitment in Central New York by conducting newspaper and television interviews to underscore the need for blood.
Joshua describes his situation this way: “I have hypogammaglobulinemia, which means I am missing the major antibody that fights off all kinds of stuff like colds, chicken pox and viruses. The antibody I need comes from blood. To give me one treatment takes 2,500 pints of blood. I receive treatments every two weeks. I always hope there will be enough kind people to help me out. It scares me not knowing for sure. The interviews I give show people that their donations help patients like me.”
A child with a significant medical condition certainly has enough to be concerned about. But, Joshua is determined to be a normal child. And for Josh, “normal” means helping others. When his best friend’s sister, Nadine, was diagnosed with leukemia in 1996, he became involved with the Make A Wish Foundation at Tully (New York) Elementary School. Joshua was the master of ceremonies for a benefit dance the group organized to help pay the other child’s medical bills. The dance netted $1,500. Joshua did not stop there. He was top fundraiser for his school’s penny collection, bringing in washtubs full of pennies – 6,000 at a time.
Again, Joshua’s words best tell the story: “Nadine died. But we know there are lots of other people who need help. We’re holding a Make A Wish Foundation benefit again at Tully High School. I am going to be the emcee. I’m personally writing to the disc jockey to see if he will do the benefit again this year. And I’m collecting more pennies. The volunteer work I do for the Make A Wish Foundation is important because it helps people. I wanted to help because I know what it’s like to be sick.”
Joshua’s desire to help extends beyond school, and indeed beyond his own community. He is part of a research project at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Three times a year, he and his mother travel to Memphis where Josh undergoes a series of tests. Joshua knows the research may not be of direct help to him. “My mom says the research won’t help cure me but it could help cure somebody else. When I go to St. Jude’s the tests they run don’t hurt that much. And some day, it could help someone so they won’t have to get treatments every two weeks like I do now.”
Josh describes himself as someone who likes to help people. And at age 11, he has already helped countless people whom he will never know through his advocacy for blood donation, his fund raising for the Make A Wish Foundation and his selfless participation in medical research.